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The Dream Economy

economics is a study of how people respond to incentives - it's a study about how people act, and how interactions between people (aka trans_actions) form productive systems. Most people consider this limited to the study of money. But I'm gonna argue that there are other forms of human activity with _transactions that form productive systems.

My favorite one, is the Dream Economy. The Dream Economy is the sphere of human activities that happen because people are persuing their dreams. If it wasn't for dreams, there is a lot of stuff that wouldn't get done.
For some people, a dream could just be owning your own home, and persuing that dream might just mean going to work every day, but another person's dream might be never working again! Persuing that dream would also spur you into activity, but different activity. Maybe it would mean building a boat from salvaged materials. Some people have dreams to be the first or the greatest ever to do some thing, or to do something never thought possible. Without people persuing dreams like that, we wouldn't have powered flight, or most of the other things we take for granted in modern life.

But that is just the action in the dream economy. The person who's dream is to escape from the financial economy maybe doesn't appear to be doing anything productive, but they are making transactions in the dream economy - because they where inspired be someone, and unless they do their stuff in totally isolation, are likely to inspire others too.

Our dreams don't just come out of nowhere, other people show us that impossible things are possible, by trying and sometimes achiving them. You might pass on your specific dream, or you might pass on simply the idea of persuing a dream.

Either way, by inspiring others or by being inspired you are transacting in the dream economy.

The Fun Economy

Another economy is the fun economy it's the sphere of activity that people perform simply because it's fun. People make music and art both because they enjoy it and because the dream of being a famous artist. Fun is infectious, if you enjoy a musical performance, you probably made it more fun for the performer - so you are transacting in the fun economy.

Fun does not seem to be particularily involved with the financial economy, but sometimes it is. I'm pretty sure that most open source software is created for fun (certainly speaking for my self)... having people to collaborate with makes it more fun. Although there is a very large dream component to ssb as a project, we would not have gotten this far if it wasn't also fun, and having a community made it much funnier than it would have been without one.

It's hard to say how much a portion of the financial economy that the fun & dream economies make up... It's certainly my dream that life should and could be more fun!


It should be called Meme.


I'd tie this into Baudrillard's idea of symbolic value. Classical economics gives us use value and exchange value, that is the (allegedly) objective utility of an object and the value of an item in comparison to other items. He added sign value and symbolic value to this; the first is the broader significance of a thing or concept (what it means at a societal level), the second is the specific meaning of something, that is the meaning to a single person. A gift has symbolic value, but that doesn't affect it's exchange or use value, or its sign value. Building a boat out of scrap may have meaning to that one person, but nothing to others.

The interesting part to this is that a symbolic value often leaks across into other areas; making outsider art may turn out to be an epoch-defining cultural statement. Writing a (partially) decentralised software stack may have huge utility for many others. Building computers in your garage may become a multi-billion-dollar company in 20 years.


It's hard to say how much a portion of the financial economy that the fun & dream economies make up...

one of my friends suggested that the lottery represented the commodification of dreams: by paying $10 for a ticket with a chance to win 10 million, we are paying for permission to dream about what we would do with the winnings. No-one really thinks they will win, they are merely buying into a dream, a fantasy.

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